Ludhiana is the city with the most extravagant bungalows and largest number of vehicles in the country. Ludhiana, the industrial and financial hub of North India, represents one of the grandest success stories of Punjab. The city has come a long way from its earlier avtar as a producer of shoddy and substandard goods. The bicycles, auto parts, and of course, hosiery items with a "made-in-Ludhiana" label are now as valued as a "made-in-USA" or a "made-in-England" label. Which is saying a lot for die-hard Punjabis obsessed with all things foreign.
Conceivably no other particular city has observed such swift growth and fabulous industrial growth and wealth generation as Ludhiana, the Manchester of India. The triumph story is not about industry alone. The city of Ludhiana is also one of the most important education and health centers of the Northern India. Also, the saga of lavish lifestyles of its residents have traveled far and wide, thus making sure that all new lifestyle products, be it the latest brand of Rado, Omega or Tag Haeur watches, the Mont Blanc or Gucci sunglasses, the newest offering from the house of Polo Sports, Marks and Spencer or Hugo Boss, or the very own desi designers Ritu Kumar, Ritu Beri etc are concurrently initiated in the mega city. Showing off wealth is a norm and snob-o-meters run on the designer clothes, designer jewellery, including Cartier and Tiffany, cars, cell phones.
In this mega city, money talks. All aspects of life, including social hierarchy, are defined in terms of a person's monetary worth. The lifestyle of the Ludhianvis is as lavish as their routine meals and as well known. Four decades ago, there were hardly any cars, and tongas and scooters were the mode of transportation. And now even young children make friends with their classmates only after knowing the economic background (do you have a Merc, Skoda, Lancer or Accent? is a commonly asked question among kids as young as five).
Socializing is mainly in clubs—Satluj Club, Ludhiana Club, Model Town Club, Lodhi Club, and for the fairer sex, Lakshmi Ladies Club, and begins well past 9 pm on week nights, and the Saturday Night Syndrome in the city sees the parties carry on till the wee hours of the morning. In fact, it is a city that never goes to sleep. The people work hard all day, and unwind at night in the clubs over Scotch and a game of rummy.
For women, kitty parties are the way to splurge. No dress, or for that matter jewellery is repeated in the same kitty, and the more mobile women would have kitties on all days, except the weekends, when couple kitties are organized. Diamond kitties and Luxury Car Kitties (where you get diamond jewellery worth a few lakhs, or a Luxury car if you win) have made way for the Singapore and Mauritius kitties (where the group, generally couples, go to any of the exotic foreign destinations for the kitty). Summer camps for kids, when they come back for a few days from their boarding schools, are in Europe or Mauritius; only lesser mortals send their kids for local summer camps.
Weddings, too, have "evolved" from being solemn ceremonies to ostentatious display of wealth and power. An average, wedding would have at least 20 stalls for snacks alone, followed by the main course. For the more elaborate weddings, invites are sent in a silver platter; the decoration at the plush farm house venues would be with orchids imported all the way from Singapore, or the tulips from Holland.
Winds of change are definitely visible in this vibrant city. Women’s education and employment are being accepted in the otherwise conservative city. Higher education is considered a must for everybody. Youngsters are getting ambitious, and are moulding their business ventures from the old routine culture to more professionally managed set-ups. Spas and health clubs are in, just as getting buttocks treatments for anti-ageing is.